Herstories for Women’s History Month

March is Women’s History Month

President Jimmy Carter issued the first Presidential Proclamation declaring the week of March 2-8, 1980 as National Women’s History Week. In 1987, Congress declared March as Women’s History Month in perpetuity. A Presidential Proclamation is issued every year to honor the achievements of American Women.

The final paragraph from the first Presidential Proclamation signed by President Jimmy Carter on February 28, 1980 says it best:

Understanding the true history of our country will help us to comprehend the need for full equality under the law for all our people. This goal can be achieved by ratifying the 27th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which states that “Equality of Rights under the Law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”


Empowered Women Empower Women

Thanks to our TBW members for sharing their herstories! We’ve enjoyed reading them and hope others will too. Thank you, also for EVERYTHING you’ve done to further women’s rights.

Mary Blakeley, San Angelo TBW

I would like to share a story of a woman who was a member of our local TBW for many years. Her name was Shirley Matejka, an elderly woman who has since passed away. As a child, she suffered from polio and much later in life she had post-polio which was very painful. But she had gotten her education, gone to school to become a meteorologist, which was unheard of for a woman to do in those days. She was the only woman in the class and was continuously ridiculed. Many times, she was told that she would never be in a supervisory position because she was a woman! Yet, when she moved to the San Angelo area, she was the Meteorologist in charge of the Weather Bureau for Tom Green County! She was one of the most intelligent women I have ever known and made her opinion known to everyone!

Pat Hadaway, Dallas Inc TBW, Past State President 2003-04

My Texas Equal Legal Rights Amendment (TELRA) story involves me in 1972. I was a newly divorced mother of 3. Cold weather had set in and I needed $100 to buy my children coats and warmer school clothes. I went to Beneficial Finance, where my ex-husband and I had borrowed money before, but was declined for the loan because I did not have credit in my name. Our credit history had been reported in my husband’s name and when we divorced, the credit reporting went with him.

I tried to rationalize with the loan officer that I had paid the bills and had been responsible for the account while married, all to no avail. No credit history, no loan. A week after I was declined for the loan, I received a call from Beneficial Finance saying that my loan would be approved. Legislation had passed that enabled credit history reporting to be in both names and I received the loan.

I did not know until I joined BPW that the “Legislation” was the TELRA. BPW was working for me long before I knew of the organization.

Gwen Davis, Dallas Metro North TBW, Past State President 1981-82

Been thinking about what to send you and decided to send you a couple of my thoughts.

Personally – In the 1950s, I worked for Republic National Bank in Dallas and needed a loan of $150 to buy a sewing machine, presumably secured by my salary of well over that amount. The bank required that my husband come to the bank to sign for the loan. It was then I fully realized how badly legislation was needed to secure financial rights for women.

Hermine Tobolowsky – During the time women in Texas were working to secure the Equal Legal Rights Amendment to the Texas Constitution, Ruth Fox had established a telephone chain that Hermine used several times when legislation was being introduced that was beneficial for or detrimental to women’s rights. We would gather near SMU to either bus or carpool to Austin to show support for or against the legislation. 

Historical Moment – In November 1977, Texas hosted the FIRST National Women’s Conference in Houston (TSHAonline). Approximately 20,000 women gathered to formulate and pass a National Plan of Action for Women. Support for the ERA passed overwhelmingly despite the Phyllis Schlafly anti-ERA attendees. One of the highlights of the event for me was that I had the opportunity to meet Susan B. Anthony II, the grandniece of the suffrage leader. Just a hand shake and a hug brought tears to my eyes for what Susan B. Anthony achieved for women.

Pat Jasso, San Antonio TBW, Past State President 2004-05

This is a story from my friend, Sonora Hartley. In 1958 or 59 Sonora’s mother, Margaret ‘Maggie’ Hartley, decided she wanted to become a stock broker. There was one female broker in San Antonio at that time, Ethel Shapiro. Maggie had met her through friends of friends and Ethel mentored her through all the studying and testing.

Maggie worked hard, got her license and went to work for Lentz Newton. Along the way, she was introduced to BPW, specifically North Alamo City. During the Summer of 1962, Maggie and Sonora went to buy a car for Sonora to have to drive to high school that fall. They settled on a brand new, baby blue Ford Falcon, sat in the sales office through all the paperwork, and then the salesMAN asked where Maggie’s husband was. Maggie explained that SHE was buying the car; the salesman explained that he could not legally sell her the car without her husband’s signature. Maggie and Sonora left without a new car.

Of course Maggie’s husband, Louie would have signed the papers, but that wasn’t the point. Maggie had been buying and selling stocks for her growing client list and for her and Louie, but she wasn’t legally allowed to buy a car. Turns out
 it was also illegal for her to buy and sell stocks in the State of Texas but NOT illegal in the State of New York where the stock exchange was located.

A few weeks later, Maggie, Louie, and Sonora headed to court to get Maggie emancipated from Louie. Her attorney was Pat Grant, attorney and member of North Alamo City BPW. The judge closely questioned Louie to reassure himself that Maggie wasn’t coercing him in some fashion. Satisfied there was no coercion, he signed the order and just like that Maggie was a free human being in her own right!

Maggie and Sonora went back to the Ford dealership. The manager read every word of the Declaration of Emancipation and they sold Maggie that cute little Ford Falcon.

Lois Henderson, Tyler County TBW

The year was 1992. George H.W. Bush was our 41st President of the United States. This was the “year of the woman”, a smart campaign slogan used by the reelection campaign of President Bush. I too ran for reelection and won a second term as President of the Fredericksburg, VA Republican Women.

When the call for more women at the Republican National Convention was given, I took the challenge and ran for delegate. I had been active with the Fredericksburg Republican Party for most of the 10 years we had lived there and had been precinct chairman during elections. The Republican Women helped raise money for my travels throughout the Congressional District. At the time, I ran a medical laboratory in Fredericksburg for a group of internists. My workday ended by 5pm and fortunately my weekends were free. My evenings were spent reaching out to chairmen of Republican organizations throughout the District, and attending their meetings was a must to meet constituents. It was a difficult schedule.

I met people like Virginia Governor George Allen, later Congressman of the “Lucky 7” (the first Congressional District), and Lt. Governor Jim Gilmore, later Governor of Virginia and 2016 Presidential candidate.

I could have just requested acceptance through the Virginia State Committee; but I had chosen to run for delegate, not alternate. The Congressional District Convention had 461 delegates in attendance; I received 292 votes and won the delegate seat. I was going to Houston, Texas. The excitement was surreal. The local paper asked me to send in a short column each day of the convention.

As I look back, I am amazed at the long hours of Convention duties. I could never have done this without my husband. My scrap book is full of memories that I would love to share.

We moved to Texas in 1992. Living in southeast Texas has been wonderful for family and work. In 1998, I was appointed a Director of the Lower Neches Valley Authority representing Tyler County by Governor George W. Bush and I was elected to Chair LNVA for one year.